Tricks of the Eye

The sea in its many moods has generated food for the creation of otherworlds beyond man’s terrestrial reality. Several instances of an optical illusion known as the Fata Morgana, caused by temperature inversion,have been recorded on the North Coast.

In the early 19th century it was observed over the surface of  the sea from Bushfoot Strand,and from Rathlin Island. One lady had a tremendous shock during the height of the Napoleonic threat, when she saw a large French fleet off Torr Head. By the time she had raised the alarm, however, it had vanished.

Again in July 1866, as reported in the Coleraine Chronicle, the fishermen of Portstewart witnessed a gigantic mirage on the coast of Inishowen, when the image of a huge castle was seen over the mouth of Lough Foyle. During the following two hours the image transformed into other fantastical scenes. At the time the occurrence was correctly interpreted as the Fata Morgana, but it was stated that anyone who had witnessed the illusion was never likely to forget it.

No doubt similar occurrences in the distant past would have created a huge impact and could have formed the basis for many myths and stories. It is, perhaps, the spirit of the times that, while the telling of tales of wonderous maritime heroes and happenings have all but disappeared
from popular culture, some of the figures are being recycled and rebranded as potent marketing tools.